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Quest Means Business
Taliban Begin Establishing Government After Swift Takeover; Nations Brace For Growing Humanitarian And Refugee Crisis; Fall Of Afghanistan; Afghans Facing Life Under Taliban Rule; More Than 500,000 Children Impacted By Haiti Earthquake; Social Media Companies Grapple With Taliban Restrictions. Aired 3-4p ET
Aired August 17, 2021 - 15:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Good evening. I'm Paula Newton in New York and welcome to CNN's continuing coverage of the fast-moving events in
Now here's where we stand this hour: After the fall of Kabul, nervous Afghans are trying to find out what kind of regime they are now living
under. Now, the Taliban are trying to establish a functioning government whatever that means, after taking power with breathtaking speed.
A spokesman says there are, quote, "positive differences" from the Taliban of 20 years ago, but their ideology remains the same. Meantime at Hamid
Karzai International Airport, I mean, you'll remember the scenes, right? A frantic exit by the U.S. and its allies, is reportedly stabilizing at this
hour after scenes of chaos were broadcast right around the world. The Pentagon says it hopes to evacuate up to 9,000 people a day.
Now, the situation remains dire though for thousands of foreign personnel and desperate locals just trying to get their opportunity to get out. Look
at this picture here. You see 640 Afghans crammed onto a C-17. All of them desperate. They are on that you U.S. Air Force plane trying to get out of
And now, for the first time since taking the capital, a Taliban spokesperson took questions from local and foreign media and urged those at
the airport to go back to their homes.
Zabihullah Mujahid said there would be no violence against women, but couched commitments to let women work and be educated, saying the Taliban
will in his words, quote, "guarantee all their rights" -- this is key here -- "within the limits of Islam."
Now, he pledged blanket amnesty for those who fought with the Afghan Army and asked people who have talent to stay and help rebuild the country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZABIHULLAH MUJAHID, TALIBAN SPOKESPERSON (through translator): We want Afghanistan not to be a battlefield. So today that fighting is over. So,
the Honorable Amir al-Mu'minin's decree, so whoever was against or opposition, they all have been given blanket amnesty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NEWTON: Now, you hear things that you are not used to hearing from the Taliban. In fact, it says it's trying to convey an image that is very
different from the ruthless group that ruled Afghanistan under strict Sharia law in the 1990s. Now, they are words of course, as you can imagine,
cold comfort for many Afghans now at this hour living in fear.
Clarissa Ward is in Kabul for us.
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Taliban told all people who work for the government that they can go back to their jobs
today. We saw policemen directing traffic on the streets, we're in a busy market. You know, not all the stores are open, but certainly a good amount
And if you come with me, Will Bonnett, my cameraman who I'm working with here is just going to take us -- there is one shop that's doing pretty good
business at the moment, which is not entirely surprising. This shop here, which is selling burqas.
Burqas are all consuming, all covering attire that are very common in Afghanistan or particularly common under the Taliban, and are enjoying now
something of a renaissance because as the Taliban have come back into town, more and more women are afraid to walk down the street even wearing very
conservative attire, like I am wearing now.
And so we actually talked to the shopkeeper a little while ago, and he told us that he has been selling a lot more burqas because people are
frightened. They are coming out, they're buying them for their wives, their daughters, whoever it may be, because they feel that from now on, this is
the way for women to be safe on the streets.
And this is how it starts. Okay? Because we hear from the Taliban again and again, women's rights will be protected. Women will be allowed to be
educated. Women will be allowed to go to work. But when you have women so afraid that they're going out to buy burqas because they are worried to be
seen on the streets, even dressed very conservatively as I am, you start to understand how the space for women becomes smaller and smaller, how their
rights become marginalized, and how they ultimately become disenfranchised.
NEWTON: Clarissa there for us on the streets of Kabul.
In the meantime, the Biden administration is in fact defending its decision to pull troops out of Afghanistan despite clearly being unprepared for a
mass evacuation of that scale after the fall of Kabul.
Now moments ago at the White House, Jake Sullivan, the U.S. national security adviser said scenes of chaos since the Taliban took over couldn't
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE SULLIVAN, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We now are faced with a circumstance where we have to help evacuate those. That's our
responsibility as the U.S. government.
But the point I'm making is that when a Civil War comes to an end with an opposing force marching on the capital, there are going to be scenes of
chaos, there are going to be lots of people leaving the country. That is not something that can be fundamentally avoided.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NEWTON: Natasha Bertrand was in fact, listening into that press conference. She is now in Washington for us. You know, jaw dropping moments. We've had
five minutes of the show, Natasha, and I never thought this would be unfolding right now. And add to that Jake Sullivan there at the podium.
Now, he is the national security adviser, and he claims the Biden administration, in fact, was prepared for all contingencies. They're still
trying to portray the confusion that everyone saw there, and the terror that so many are feeling this hour, as a matter of first takes, if you
will, and something that couldn't be avoided.
I mean, what's at work here in terms of behind the scenes with the Biden administration?
NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, Paula. Well, that public messaging by the Biden administration kind of defies what we're hearing
behind the scenes, which is that there has been a lot of finger pointing going on amongst administration officials in different agencies.
So, certain White House officials that we've been speaking to say that the President believes that he got bad advice from some of his military and
Intelligence officials with regard to the timing of all of this, the speed with which the Taliban was able to take over the country.
The military, meanwhile, defending itself, saying that they were urging the State Department for weeks and weeks to evacuate the embassy in Kabul
before we saw a situation like this play out on the ground before this mass, rushed, and dangerous evacuation had to occur once the Taliban took
full control over Kabul.
State Department, meanwhile, officials there telling us that they were relying on the Intelligence assessments that told them that they actually
had more time, that the fall of Kabul was not imminent, and that it might not happen for another 30 to 90 days even.
The Intelligence Community meanwhile, defending itself. Intelligence officials telling us that they have long predicted that a fast collapse of
the Afghan government and security forces could have occurred and was a possibility and that is what they were relaying to policymakers.
Now, one of the big questions that the administration is still grappling with here is how they are going to get upwards of 10,000 American citizens
out of Afghanistan. They are scattered all around the country. The U.S. is not providing them with transportation to Kabul Airport, but what we heard
today from Jake Sullivan, and later from the Press Secretary, Jen Psaki, is that the Taliban has told the United States that they will allow for safe
passage of these American citizens to the airport.
So, now it seems that the administration is messaging to these Americans, you can go to the airport, the Taliban will not interfere with that. They
are talking with the militant group behind the scenes, and kind of just hoping that things will play out peacefully.
NEWTON: Yes, hope does not seem something we should be able to rely on at this point. It was interesting that Jake Sullivan admitted the fact that,
you know, on the ground outside the perimeter of the airport, we've already seen, you know, chaos. And quite frankly, we've seen people trying to
approach the airport and the Taliban has said, look, you can't enter, and in some cases worse.
We've had anecdotal reports that people have been beaten for trying to go near the airport. Add to that what you just said, right? There are not just
Americans, but Afghans who worked with Americans and other allies at risk all over the country. Do they have a plan for, if you are sitting in
Kandahar right now, what you do to try and get to the help that the United States says it will provide?
BERTRAND: There really is no clear plan at this point, Paula. What the administration is saying is that they are working with the Taliban on a
timetable for this kind of promise that they will allow for the safe passage of both the American citizens and the eligible Afghans to get to
the airport safely, and that they hope that this is going to be able to be achieved by August 31st while U.S. troops are still in the country and can
provide that sort of security blanket for these Americans, for these Afghans.
But that that timeline is still being worked out, and it is completely unclear at this point whether these Afghans, whether these Americans are
all going to be able to get out of the country by the end of the month, which of course was the ultimate date that Biden -- President Biden said,
the U.S. troops and Americans would be withdrawing by.
So right now, kind of just a mad rush towards the end of the month, hoping that the Taliban will keep to its commitments. But there are tens of
thousands of Afghans who say that their lives are going to be at risk if they are not evacuated by the Americans soon.
NEWTON: And to be clear, those Afghan citizens have been saying this for months, years, but obviously speaking most loudly in the last few days.
Natasha, thanks for that update. Appreciate it.
NEWTON: We want to go now to CNN's Sam Kiley. He of course has spent years in Afghanistan covering the Taliban and he joins us from London tonight.
You know, I'll park my skepticism for a moment and ask you we had that extraordinary press conference from Taliban. Yet, what's the end game here
as far as you can muster? Because they are obviously on some kind of a charm offensive. What I'm trying to parse is, what are their goals in the
short term here?
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The short-term goals are very clear, they want to have a stable transition as they possibly can.
They want to avoid any explosion of violence, they want to avoid seeing an uprising, perhaps in some provincial capital by former members of the
Afghan National Army and other security forces against them. They want to avoid clashing with warlords, and they want to be able to avoid being
isolated internationally -- this is over the more medium term -- by the international community.
They want to be able to engage in terms of trade, more importantly, in terms of aid to their country if they're going to be able to govern rather
than impose rule in a very medieval way that we saw, which worked for them 20 years ago, up until the point at which they were toppled because of
their harboring of al-Qaeda.
They have pledged that they would have no foreign fighters, that no international terrorism would be conducted from their territory. They
acknowledged that there are foreign fighters in Afghanistan.
I think, a key thing here to remember is that the al-Qaeda brand has died out and withered really in comparison to the so-called Islamic state
branded, which has also spread itself across Africa, and elsewhere in the world.
So Afghanistan is much less important in terms of international terrorism and the Taliban have a long and bloody recent record of fighting and
killing members of ISIS as rivals for that brand, if you like, but also as potential threats to them in the longer term, because they do prosecute
international terror. The Taliban have never been committed to that.
But above all, they are going to face the real problem of a reality check. Has their ideology matured enough that they can be this inclusive
government that they know they need to be? In other words, will this be more than mere window dressing? And you can, therefore put your cynical hat
back on, I think.
NEWTON: Yes, perhaps you've not felt the cold stare of Talibs looking at you as I have, just because my hair was falling out of whatever headdress I
had on at the time.
I will say that there are, you know, the, the expedient job that they have to do right now, just keeping the city of Kabul running. If we parked that
at one end, I know you've done extensive travel through Afghanistan, how difficult is it going to be even for the Taliban to keep this band of
extremists from all over the country pushing in one direction.
KILEY: It is going to be very hard indeed, to keep them, particularly along a moderate line. It is very easy to motivate angry young men to forms of
ultra-extremism, you know, a form of Islamic fascism, we've seen that with ISIS, with the Taliban, with al-Qaeda with the Hitler Youth. It is easily
done. A more nuanced approach is much harder to sell.
And then on top of that, they have got these centrifugal forces. They've got warlords around the country that have folded up in the face of Taliban
advances, but not given up the fight. They will want a piece of the pie arguably; some, like Ismail Khan in Herat held out against them for many,
many years indeed, so they -- and they have agreed to down weapons, but not necessarily permanently give up the fight.
And then, I think Paula, one a very important thing emerged from this press conference is that the Taliban said it would return its policy back to 2001
when they say that they had and there's a lot of evidence that they succeeded in this, eradicated the opium trade.
That in terms of security and an immediate challenge, if they were to embark on that in Helmand, which produces upwards of 80 percent of the
world's opium trade worth $4 billion a year, pretty much Afghans will -- undoubtedly Afghanistan's biggest export, often that trade involving very
senior warlords, very important elements both within the Taliban and within the government forces. There's a synergy there that goes on behind closed
doors in the Afghan underground, if you like.
If they go after, that they could meet with an equal and opposite and very violent reaction. It is precisely that reaction that NATO got when they
went into Helmand. There was no insurgency in 2005 and from 2006 for the next five or six years, that's where the focus of the insurgency was, very
arguably, rather not so much Taliban fighters as people defending their drugs' interests -- Paula.
NEWTON: Yes, and very interesting in what you say that now the Taliban will obviously inherit all of those challenges depending on what course of
action they intend to take.
Sam Kiley will continue to check in with you in the coming hours. Appreciate it.
NEWTON: Now, as you were saying, the American evacuation of Kabul resumes, the U.S. says it can now move about 9,000 people out of the country per
day, and that's on military flights alone. We will have details when we return.
NEWTON: So, the White House says the Taliban has committed to allowing in their words, safe passage, for civilians to get to Kabul Airport as
thousands attempt to flee the city following the Taliban's takeover. Now 600 to about 700 people and that includes about 165 Americans departed
Kabul on seven U.S. military planes as the American evacuation resumed overnight.
Now Pentagon spokesperson, John Kirby told CNN the U.S. was now capable of getting thousands of people out of the country each and every day. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET.) PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: Just on the military craft alone, we believe we can get between 5,000 and 9,000 people
out per day, of course, some of that is weather dependent, obviously security dependent, but we have the capacity to literally move thousands
per day once we get everybody on the ground, all the security troops that we need there, and we can continue the flow of aircraft.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NEWTON: Now this is important, too. Kirby said Americans near Kabul now no longer need to shelter in place and could start heading to the airport to
queue up and get processed to get those all-important flights out.
Now, tens of thousands of Afghans are trying, of course, as you've heard here trying to get out of the country right now, and that's in addition to
the hundreds of thousands who have already fled their homes since the fighting flared up earlier this year.
Arwa Damon is in Istanbul, and you know, I'm sure that when you're looking at the pictures, you've been through this before in terms of looking at
people, refugees, whether it's in Syria, whether it's in Iraq, we see these pictures of these desperate people fleeing, but where are they going? And
what is the beginnings of what's in place now to try and accommodate them?
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, a couple of things. I mean, first of all, the big difference between what we're
seeing out of Afghanistan and what we saw during the Syrian refugee crisis in 2015, is that in 2015, people were actually able to flee Syria. They
were able to get out of the war zone.
Right now, when it comes to Afghanistan, the vast majority of those who want to flee are unable to do so. Those horrific, gutting images that we're
seeing coming out of Kabul Airport, that is just a fraction of the desperation that exists among the population.
DAMON: As to where they are going, well, the U.S. is talking to a number of third countries such as Uganda, for example, we just found out that will be
taking around 2,000 Afghan refugees for a few months before they can be relocated to a yet to be determined country.
There are a number of conversations happening with other countries that can sort of act as interim stopping points for those that are being evacuated
at the moment, but this really doesn't feel like it's a set solid plan that is in place.
You have European countries that are scrambling, having conversations about how to basically, to put it bluntly, prevent Afghan refugees from flooding
into Europe the same way that the Syrians did. Even German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was so applauded for her decision back in 2015 to open
up Germany's doors to a million Syrian refugees is saying that, look, we need to learn from the mistakes that we made back then, we need to support,
you know, U.N. agencies that are dealing with refugee populations in countries that are neighboring to the country that people are trying to
flee from. So, in this case, it would obviously be Afghanistan.
You know, Turkey and Pakistan talking about how to "stabilize Afghanistan," quote-unquote, so that they can prevent a refugee crisis from taking place.
Turkey has built a big chunk of a border wall between Turkey and Iran because that is the main transit point for Afghan refugees that want to get
to Turkey and then hop on to Europe.
So, while there are these evacuations that are happening, yes, it is a tiny portion of the population. And still at this point, the broader
conversation continues to center, it would feel and it seems, especially when it comes to Western countries as being focused around how do we keep
the Afghan refugees out of here?
NEWTON: Yes, and even if there seems to be a path, you so rightly point out that they are in transit points where they languish for months, years
waiting for safe passage to some of these countries.
Arwa Damon, appreciate your insight on all of that.
Now, as we were just talking about tens of thousands who are trying to flee, meantime, millions of Afghans remain refugees, internally displaced,
many of them are in their own war-torn country.
Now U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi told CNN's Eleni Giokos today there were more than three million internal internally
displaced peoples in Afghanistan, with half a million forcibly displaced in the last few months, of course, as we saw the Taliban advance right through
the entire countryside, and many just in the last few days.
Now, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the U.K. will work with other countries to avoid a humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan and said
recognizing a new government would be only on the best international terms.
Now, Alexander Matheou is Asia-Pacific Director for the International Federation of the Red Cross. He joins us now.
Now, the prospects for Afghanistan were bleak before. Half of the country, you have told us arguably food insecure, the climate crisis, of course, and
the armed conflict, only making things worse in the last few months. So, where do we stand now, given the developments of the last few days?
ALEXANDER MATHEOU, ASIA-PACIFIC DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE RED CROSS: Well, there are different things going on in Afghanistan at the
moment and different reasons why people are moving in the ways that you just described.
So the most visible movement and perhaps the most dramatic images are coming from those who are being evacuated from the airport. Those are the -
- that's the smallest group of people who are on the move, those who have been in one way or another associated with Western powers, and no longer
feels safe to stay.
The next biggest number are the people that are moving towards the border areas, although to be honest, we don't have a good sense yet how many
people want to cross over into the neighboring states, or how many indeed will be allowed to cross over even if they want to. Then, the next biggest
group and you refer to them, are those that have been internally displaced, and here we have much larger numbers, over 300,000 in recent weeks, and
we've seen some of those images in Kabul.
These are people who have moved because of drought, but largely because of the fighting. And some of those are already actually going back. But it is
important to remember that by far, the largest group of vulnerable people in Afghanistan are the ones that are not moving at all. That is the
majority of the population who are staying where they were from in their villages or towns, and they are extremely vulnerable to what is a very
severe drought in Afghanistan affecting 11 million people, that's a third of the population are food insecure.
And of course, we still have the very severe pandemic COVID-19 which is hitting Afghanistan very hard. So, there are multiple crises going on at
the same time.
NEWTON: And I'm glad that you mentioned the pandemic because it has been taking a toll already on the scarce health resources throughout the
country. So, what are the challenges now in places that the Taliban is controlling whether they've controlled it for months, years, or just in the
last few days? I mean, what do you see shifting in terms of the need?
MATHEOU: First, in terms of access, if I may, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent movement has worked with the Taliban 20 years ago, and has
continued to be in contact with them to secure access, to provide services to people over recent years as well, and we do anticipate that services
The Afghan Red Crescent, it runs the largest nongovernment primary health network in the country, over 150 health services, either mobile or
stationary clinics. And these are staffed by people, volunteers, and staff from the communities within Afghanistan. So, they're not perceived as
something that's coming from the outside. So, they will continue to provide services now as they have done before.
There may be some temporary delays as we talk to new interlocutors, but largely, we anticipate those services will continue. And we will continue
to be the first responder to every natural disaster in a very disaster- prone country.
So the services will continue, but the problems are varied. But on the pandemic, I think we are likely to see another wave hit quite soon. It
reached a peak about two months ago, where 34 percent of people tested were positive. The hospitals were overflowing and there was a shortage of
oxygen. But that did get a little bit better over recent weeks.
But there's been so much movement, and so many crowds convening conflict that there probably have been super spread at events that we will really
feel about two to three weeks from now.
NEWTON: Yes, and it is such a good point. As we see some of the images, we all have to remember that this is in the middle of the pandemic and it will
just add another layer of suffering to people already wondering how they are going to continue to secure their livelihoods.
I appreciate the update. Thanks so much for being with us.
MATHEOU: Thank you.
NEWTON: Now, the head of NATO said the speed of Afghanistan's collapse was quote, "a surprise." But he could not provide answers when one Afghan
journalist pressed him multiple times about the future of Afghan women.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAILUMA SADID, CORRESPONDENT, BRUSSELS MORNING NEWSPAPER: There are thousands of women really don't know for the future, what is going on and
what should have informed them. And they are always asking, what does it mean 20 years? NATO with all the international communities inside
Afghanistan, and then we are going back again 20 years after we were on that place?
I would like to hear how that is possible. And I would like to ask as a woman, please don't recognize the Emirate Islamic Taliban without any
condition like the agreement which is signed between Taliban and the government of Trump and then only to his following that please don't
recognize the Taliban and don t put us again in the same situation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NEWTON: I mean, think about that. That journalist is safe in Europe, and yet she is overcome with emotion, fear, and terror for those left behind
and she reportedly fled Afghanistan herself after the Taliban threatened her life.
Now, Afghanistan is not only facing social and political turmoil, its economy of course is also on the brink of crisis. I'll speak with the
country's former Finance Minister. That's up next.
NEWTON: Of note here, U.S. President Joe Biden has not spoken to any of his foreign counterparts since Kabul fell to the Taliban while several European
leaders have held talks over the last few days.
Mr. Biden has left the calls to other members of his administration. A few minutes ago, the U.S. national security adviser said that while he
sympathized with the plight of Afghanis, the White House could not be changing course on its policy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE SULLIVAN, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Truly, deeply, my heart goes out to Afghan women and girls in the country today under the Taliban. We've
seen what they've done before. And that's a very hard thing for any of us to face.
But this wasn't a choice just between saving those women and girls and not saving those women and girls. The alternative choice had its own set of
human consequences, as I say.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NEWTON: Now the European Union, meantime, is preparing to enter into what they call a dialogue with the Taliban. They held virtual talks earlier
today. They're concerned, of course, about a humanitarian crisis and a migrant crisis hitting Europe.
Europe's foreign affairs chief said they have to work with whoever is in control of Afghanistan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are happy they are in touch with (INAUDIBLE) in Kabul. The Taliban (INAUDIBLE), whatever they are, the Taliban have won the
war. So we will have to talk with them. In order to engage in a dialogue, as soon as necessary to prevent a (INAUDIBLE) potential migratory disaster
but also a humanitarian crisis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NEWTON: You heard him; the Taliban have won the war. Salma Abdelaziz is in London.
This is a stark choice for Europe as well. While the instinct would be to pull all aid to Afghanistan right now, not recognize the Taliban, that
would have its own consequences.
SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. It's a murky situation on the ground. The people of Afghanistan are still trying to figure out what
regime they're living under, what type of government the Taliban is forming.
So for the E.U., it is about emergency control. That's why these foreign ministers met. The E.U. foreign affairs chief, Joseph Barrow (ph), giving
an update to reporters and laying out what was spoken about in that meeting.
And he said there are three key priorities for E.U. member states. The first is evacuations, E.U. nationals or staff left behind in Afghanistan.
They want to see all of those people moved out to safety, back home in the E.U.
What Mr. Barrow (ph) said his second biggest concern, his greatest worry is a group of Afghan nationals who --
NEWTON: We seem to have lost Salma Abdelaziz. As she was saying though, as you can imagine, in fact, this is quite the few decisions in front of them.
Salma, try and pick up where you left off.
ABDELAZIZ: Yes, I'm so sorry for that. Apologies for the technicality.
But what I was saying, for the E.U. member states, what is most worrying are the Afghan nationals who worked with E.U. institutions and now trapped
back home. There's a group of about 400 of them, staff and family members. The E.U. chief of foreign affairs saying, we cannot abandon these Afghan
We must do everything we can to get them out of the country. The goal is to get them into the E.U. member states and begin to process their asylum
The second issue, big fear among E.U. member states that this would turn into a huge migratory crisis like what we saw during the Syrian civil war.
You would have tens of thousands of refugees making that dangerous crossing, trying get into E.U. borders.
Absolutely these member states do not want to see that and that leads to point 3.
They're saying the only way to coordinate all these issues is to engage with talks with the Taliban officials that are on the ground. The E.U.
foreign affairs chief saying the Taliban are in control. They have won. We must engage in conversations with them.
This does not mean they are acknowledging the legitimacy of the Taliban, only the reality of the facts on the ground.
NEWTON: And we will see how that unfolds in the coming days, as try and decide how they will accept and when accept refugees from Afghanistan.
Afghanistan's currency as you can imagine has fallen to a record low against the dollar. That comes days after the head of the central bank
apparently had to flee the country. He described the chaotic season at the airport in a series of tweets on Monday. He said he was, quote, "disgusted
by the lack of any planning by Afghan leadership."
And the World Bank say they were already facing daunting economic challenges and that was before the Taliban takeover.
Eklil Hakimi was Afghanistan's former finance minister. He joins me from California.
We will get to a lot of issues on the table financially.
Having been a member of his cabinet, why do you think president Ashraf Ghani fled?
And have you had any contact with him since?
EKLIL HAKIMI, FORMER AFGHAN FINANCE MINISTER: No. I stepped down from the ministry of foreign affairs almost 3.5 years. And since then, I haven't
been in contact at all. Why he left, I think that history will judge what he did. And I was certainly, if I was asked, I would have recommended for
that action, to leave the country.
NEWTON: You think what he did was wrong and abandoned the Afghanis?
HAKIMI: Well, I said history will judge him. But I wouldn't do that because that created a lot of ambiguity. And right now, there is a political gap
because of that.
NEWTON: A political gap that has been claimed now by the Taliban, wholly and thoroughly, it seems. You were a crucial part of the Afghan government.
As such, why do you believe that everything went so utterly wrong, both the Afghan military laying down all of their arms, not resisting the Taliban,
and then the Taliban so rapidly taking over the entire country?
HAKIMI: Well, some people saying that was a magic. Even Taliban are surprised by what happened. According to my assessment, I think the
majority of Afghan people, who some people call them a silent voice, they decided to stop this war.
And they have taken the lead. They went to both sides to find and come up with a formula to find a political settlement.
HAKIMI: And some of the tribe leaders, some of the elders, even religious scholars, they talked with both sides to not fight. So that I think played
a major role.
NEWTON: There are still a lot of financial challenges ahead.
How would you itemize them?
Key question, whether it is the United States or key allies, do you keep the money flowing even though Taliban is now in charge?
HAKIMI: Well, it depends on how international community wants to engage with Taliban. And I'm sure they are watching the developments right now, as
we speak, very closely.
And also, it depends on Taliban, how they want to engage with the international community. But from the financial side, at least in the
administration that I was responsible for the treasury, we relied on the financial aid, especially from our donors.
So according to wartime (ph) figures, the equivalence to 22 percent of our national growth income came from our partners. So even though that was a
high figure before -- and it came down from 49 percent -- but again more than 60 percent of our national budget now, we get support from the donors
I'm sure it will continue for some time unless the new administration does something drastically to lower the security expenses and also lower down
the problem of corruption.
NEWTON: And there is a big problem with corruption there.
Before I let you go and I don't have a lot of time here, do you think that was the root cause of all of this?
You've had some colorful quotes in the past about what you thought about the corruption, the level of corruption in Afghanistan.
HAKIMI: Well, yes. It was a major issue, that is true. But there were various reasons for that. So fingering or pointing to one side, who did
what, I don't think that is a solution. We have to go to the root cause of this problem, which we inherited from so many years, especially after 2001
because the country was not ready.
And a lot of donors' support very generously came to Afghanistan. So to some extent, it was misuse from both players. So --
NEWTON: And we will -- I will have to leave it there for now. But we do appreciate your time, especially as we see things continue to unfold on the
ground. The finance of the country is an integral part of everything going on. Thank you again for your time.
HAKIMI: Thank you, Paula.
NEWTON: Now the humanitarian crisis in Haiti is escalating. More than 1 million Haitians, reeling from Saturday's earthquake, are now dealing with
a tropical storm, cutting off vital aid. CNN is on the ground. We'll bring you that next.
NEWTON: A tropical storm is hampering efforts to get vital supplies to earthquake-stricken Haiti. Now more than a million Haitians have been
impacted by the magnitude 7.2 earthquake, including more than half a million children.
UNICEF has warned about their conditions at the moment. Look at those pictures. Trying to shelter from this, tropical storm Grace, bringing rain
and mudslides and is further disrupting access to water, shelter and basic services. The U.N. says it is allocating $8 million in aid to Haiti. Joe
Johns joins us now.
It was so striking, I was listening to you earlier saying this is a country that has not recovered from the last massive earthquake. That's years, more
than a decade ago. They were hit with the quake, plus now this storm.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right. Driving through the streets of Port-au-Prince, you can see there are signs
that this country has never recovered from that earthquake 11 years ago that ended up in the deaths of 200,000-plus people in Haiti.
I heard the statistics that you were reading off, including the 500,000 children affected by this quake. We know the lessons learned from the last
earthquake is how situation this affects the children.
There are concerns about the children being separated from their parents during the chaos of the quake and following that. There are also concerns
about the children being orphaned, their parents having been killed in the earthquake and what to do for those children who cannot help themselves.
It's a significant problem and one Haiti has had to address before. The aid is pouring in here to Port-au-Prince. The United States government, the
Pentagon just announcing today that they're sending ships, more helicopters and personnel. They continue to assess and evaluate the needs of the people
here on the ground.
Nonetheless, it is pretty clear; those needs are not going to be fully determined for a while.
One of the huge concerns last night, with the storm raining on people who had so many lost their homes, then it rolled out this morning. The concern
is the water hitting the sediment that was stirred up by the earthquake, creating mudslides, landslides and other problems that just slow the
rescue, slow the recovery and create even more hazards for the people trying to help.
The other thing I think that is important, when you compare this to 11 years ago, is the government is not able to efficiently help in many ways.
One of the biggest problems here in Haiti over the past 10 years and even before that has been the inability to secure the roads from the bandits,
from lawlessness and people who would rob those who would try to help. That, too, is a huge problem to securing the roads.
JOHNS: A long list of issues. I'm sure there will be more.
NEWTON: And no more proof is needed that this is a country on its knees. Joe Johns, we're glad you're there. Appreciate the update.
So many social media companies have said it for some time now. Government leaders around the world apparently deserve free speech protected. Now Big
Tech is having to ask if they will give the Taliban that same protection.
NEWTON: So Facebook says it will remove any accounts associated with the Taliban even though the group is now in control of Afghanistan. Facebook
has a longstanding policy banning the Taliban.
They say that's because the group is sanctioned as a terrorist organization under U.S. law. The situation on other platforms; not so clear. In fact,
one of the Taliban spokespeople has an active Twitter account, with more than 300,000 followers.
And I would be wagering to guess it is accumulating more followers right now. Brian Stelter joins me to discuss all this.
I confess to you, I am confused about these policies and how they're adjudicated and by whom.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: I think even these companies are confused. We've been seeing different statements, different
clarifications about different rules from Facebook, YouTube, et cetera.
At a press conference earlier today in Kabul, Taliban representatives condemned Facebook, criticized Facebook for the way its accounts are
handled. Facebook said it has had this in effect for a long time.
YouTube as of today said the Afghan Taliban appears on the Treasury Department's sanctions list in the United States. So thus the platform does
not allow accounts from the Afghan Taliban on YouTube.
So YouTube has these specific reasons for abandoning accounts related to U.S. government and financing and rules around terrorism.
So you have YouTube trying to use these U.S. rules as a guidepost. You have Facebook and Twitter using other standards as guideposts. It is very
confusing. And it is a very delicate dance these companies are engaging in.
They want Afghans to be able to use their platforms and want the Taliban to allow these to flourish and not block them in Afghanistan.
STELTER: That's one of my questions going forward.
Will people all across the country in Afghanistan still be able to use social media?
Or are they going to find it restricted in the weeks and months to come?
And some of that decision making might come down to whether the Taliban accounts are banned on these platforms.
Such a complicated question, isn't it?
I'm glad you raised that point. At the end of the day, they may find it expedient, the Taliban might, to make sure these platforms are used and
they can find ways to control them, as other countries do.
STELTER: And ultimately argue that their official government accounts should be allowed on the site. It is notable that Facebook and WhatsApp
have had this ban in place and, in many countries, Facebook is the internet.
And Facebook has drawn a pretty clear line against having Taliban accounts. The company saying, "The Taliban is sanctioned as a terror organization
under U.S. law and we have banned them from our services under our dangerous organization policies."
So that's the Facebook line, a very strong line to take. It is actually stronger than what Twitter and YouTube have done.
NEWTON: The story will continue to be followed. These platforms are transformational, not just to us but even in places like Afghanistan. Thank
you so much. Appreciate you going through that with us.
We'll be right back with more news in a moment.
NEWTON: Recapping, of course, our developing story tonight, the Taliban are trying to define a new government and the Afghan people are trying to find
out what kind of regime they will be living under.
In an absolutely surreal press conference, a Taliban spokesperson took questions from foreign and local press. He said there are, quote, "positive
differences" from the Taliban of 20 years ago but that their ideology, this is key, remains the same.
That spokesman pledged blanket amnesty for those who fought with the Afghan army and asked people who have talent to stay and help rebuild the country,
trying to avoid a so-called brain drain.
Meantime, at Hamid Karzai International Airport the situation remains dire for foreign personnel and desperate locals trying to get out. The Pentagon
says the airport is now secure, though, after the chaos that we all saw unfold on Monday. We, of course, will continue to stay on top of this
story. We have a lot more coming up.
For now, I'm Paula Newton in New York. "THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts right now.